where does ink come from

Answers to where does ink come from

The first inks were fruit or vegetable juices; protective secretions from cephalopods such as squid, cuttlefish, and octopus; blood from some types of shellfish; and tannin from galls, nuts, or bark from trees. The first man-made ink appeared in Egypt about 4,500 years ago and was made from animal or vegetable charcoal (lampblack) mixed with glue.

Today's inks are divided into two classes: printing inks and writing inks. Printing inks are further broken down into two subclasses: ink for conventional printing, in which a mechanical plate comes in contact with or transfers an image to the paper or object being printed on; and ink for digital nonimpact printing, which includes ink-jet and electrophotographic technologies.

Color printing inks are made primarily with linseed oil, soybean oil, or a heavy petroleum distillate as the solvent (called the vehicle) combined with organic pigments. The pigments are made up of salts of multiring nitrogen-containing compounds (dyes), such as yellow lake, peacock blue, phthalocyanine green, and diarylide orange. Inorganic pigments also are used in printing inks to a lesser extent. Some examples are chrome green (Cr2O3), Prussian blue (Fe4[Fe(CN)6]3), cadmium yellow (CdS), and molybdate orange (a mix of lead chromate, molybdate, and sulfate).

Black ink is made using carbon black. And white pigments, such as titanium dioxide, are used either by themselves or to adjust characteristics of color inks. Inks also contain additives such as waxes, lubricants, surfactants, and drying agents to aid printing and to impart any desired special characteristics.

Printing ink is a $10 billion global industry. The Census Bureau tracks about 250 printing ink companies in the U.S., which in 1997 produced 2.2 billion lb of ink with sales of $4 billion.

Older style writing inks, such as in fountain pens, use a fluid water-based dye system. But in the 1950s, when ballpoint pens became fashionable, the writing ink industry shifted to pastelike oil-based dye systems. The thick consistency allows capillary action to keep the ink flowing well, and the inks generally are nonsmearing and quicker drying than water-based systems.

Dyes tend to be preferred over pigments for writing inks because pigments can't be dispersed minutely enough and tend to clog the pen tip. And water-based dye or pigment systems are still used for markers, highlighters, and rollerball pens. A few pen manufacturers, such as Bic (which sells about 3 million pens per day), make their own ink, but most pen manufacturers buy their ink.

Another Option
Soy ink is a kind of ink made from soybeans. As opposed to traditional petroleum-based ink, soy-based ink:
   * is more environmentally friendly
   * is available in brighter colors
   * improves the life span of the printers
   * makes it easier to recycle paper
   * is more economic in the long run

Back to the Future
Back in circa 2500 BC ink was comprised of various colored juices and exotic extracts including alizarin, indigo, pokeberries, cochineal, and sepia.

Much later, in 1772, the first patent was issued in England for making colored inks. In the 19th century, chemical drying agents appeared, giving rise to a wide variety of pigments. Then things got complicated

At the beginning of the 20th century, ink-making became a complex chemical-industrial process. The manufacture of modern ink takes into account dozens of factors, including "color, opacity, transparency, brilliance, lightfastness, surface hardness, pliability, wettability, purity, and odourlessness." Goodbye, sepia! Hello, methyl alcohol!

Inks for low-speed letterpress printing (the process usually used in book production) are made up of of carbon black, a heavy varnish, and a drier to reduce the drying time. Most pen inks incorporate those three main ingredients in different ratios. Intaglio (i.e. -- cartoon) inks are composed of petroleum naphthas, resins, and coal-tar solvents.

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